Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with Jousting Jon Arvedon, as he takes a look at the first issue of The Unworthy Thor...
The Unworthy Thor #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): On a quest to prove his worth, The Unworthy Thor #1 begins to fill in the gaps between the present day and 2014’s Original Sin, where Odinson lost his ability to wield the mighty Mjolnir. The Odinson becoming unworthy of the name “Thor” — silly as it may be (after all, it’s a name, not a mantle) — is explored by writer Jason Aaron in a flashback sequence that includes fan favorite Beta Ray Bill, and a mysterious character called The Unseen. It’s the exchange with this cloaked figure that leads Odinson on a mission to retrieve the hammer belonging to the Thor of the Ultimate Universe, which has remained in ambiguity since the conclusion of last year’s Secret Wars. Artist Oliver Coipel’s action sequences and his depictions of the various creatures Odinson encounters are intense, and fully capture the brutality of a man with nothing to lose, but everything to reclaim. Colorist Matthew Wilson also makes great use of a darker palette selection, further enhancing the atmosphere of the story. The issue ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but still sets clear expectations for where the series is headed.
Superman #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The inevitable meeting of the sons of DC’s two most prolific heroes finally takes place in the pages of Superman #10. It’d be easy to let the inclusion of Batman and Robin overshadow the titular hero and his son. However, Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason actually make this feel more like a Superboy book, rather than an issue of Superman, by keeping the focus on the younger heroes and further developing Superboy’s powers. (That’s by no means a flaw.) Gleason also pulls double duty, providing the pencils for this issue. His outstanding ability to tell a story through facial expressions is on full display, especially in the double-page spread where the two fathers engage in a fierce staredown, as their sons stand by their sides, primed for battle. Mick Gray’s deep black inks provide beautiful contrast when paired with John Kalisz’s vivid and energetic palette, which bring the final composition to life. The character interactions are definitely the highlight of this book, and from the look of things, the next issue promises to build on the solid foundation Superman #10 has set.
Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Mike Del Mundo really is a great artist, huh? And now he’s been given a flagship book which ushers in a new time for the Avengers post teen-hero walkout, but doesn’t necessarily play to his strengths. Initially, Mark Waid’s script feels more bombastic than last year’s All-New All-Different debut, but a closer look reveals we’ve seen it before. The heroes aren’t infighting, but they are bickering. For example. Kang seeks to enact revenge on the team for Vision’s infractions against him resulting in there being multiple versions of him and an altered time stream – trappings that Kang stories normally tick off over the course of the arc. Despite the potential that Kang presents, del Mundo is only given a couple of pages at the end to deliver some inventive page layouts. With any luck, getting these out of the way early means the story is fast approaching new territory because right now the coat of paint hasn’t been able to mask the fact we’ve seen this before, no matter how stunning the coat is.
Batman #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): An attempted break-in to the Santa Prisca Prison pits Batman directly against Bane and his acolytes which sees characters broken mentally and physically. Rather than repeat what came before in “Knightfall,” Tom King manages to turn a reversal of events into a fist-pumping moment that is reminiscent of the hyper capable Batman of Grant Morrison, and continues the high octane streak this book has been on since issue 1. Mikel Janin continues to be a master of motion and framing, demonstrated expertly in a sequence which pushes Batman to the forefront of the panel only to engulf him on the following page. Filled with rich yellows from June Chung, Santa Prisca is distinct from Gotham, and while the use of repetition within dialogue was utilized within the first arc to demonstrate helplessness, here it comes across as a mantra from Bruce Wayne, who’s determined to prove he’s no longer the Bat that Bane broke, highlighting how their conflicts have developed beyond that fateful first encounter.
Josie and the Pussycats #2 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Josie and the Pussycats bring the funny as they head out for their first gig outside of Riverdale. Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio expand the girls’ fanbase as they perform for and then run afoul of the music loving denizens of a biker bar. But while this A-plot is fairly standard for this kind of comic, the pair of writers filter it through a hilariously meta lens and pack the script with jokes ranging from Kieron Gillen level puns to truly clever wordplay, the funniest of which coming once again from Melody who is quickly becoming the breakout star of this series. Audrey Mok and Kelly Fitzpatrick again impress with tightly packed and surprisingly dynamic double page panel layouts bolstered by Mok’s beautiful costumes and Fitzpatrick’s rich colors. While New Riverdale has enjoyed the name recognition of Archie and Jughead, Josie and the Pussycats #2 proves that Josie, Valerie, and Melody are poised to be your new favorite Riverdale teens.
Foolkiller #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Foolkiller deserves the hype that Bemis' previous effort, Worst X-Man Ever, received. Following his bloodthirsty vigilante days, Greg Salinger is now a therapist and spends much of Foolkiller #1 treating a patient who goes by the criminal moniker of Young Red Skull. Themes of identity performance are explored, and the final panel hints at this developing as the series progresses. Foolkiller wears the mask of a therapist while actually working for Shield's Captain Gary Span, who is himself deeply engrained in his own performance. Rodney is acting as Young Red Skull, and Gary and his partner role-play in their intimate moments. This is clever writing, with several lines getting repeated in entirely different contexts. Bemis clearly knows the story he wants to tell, and, barring some awkward and overwritten lines ("Weezer glasses" is a joke that's about 15 years late), has a clear understanding of who Salinger is. Dalibor Talajic's art and Miroslav Mrva's coloring work perfectly in tandem over the course of the book. For a title that could have started as a grimdark-quipfest-appetizer for Deadpool, this looks like a very strong start to a series that has something to say.
Shade, the Changing Girl #2 (Published by DC’s Young Animal; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Loma Shade gets her first taste of earthling school in Shade, the Changing Girl #2. By throwing Loma into the wild waters of high school writer Cecil Castellucci gets a chance to further explores Megan’s return to the land of the living as well as Loma’s struggle to understand the life she is inhabiting and how to turn it toward the better. But while the setting is humdrum, artist Marley Zarcone and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick inject all sorts of day-glo weirdness into the proceedings, balancing the teen drama with trippy visuals that mirror the wild headspace that teenagers find themselves in, even without the benefit of a Madness Vest. Continuing the title’s commitment to stylish visuals and emotional teen centered storytelling Shade, the Changing Girl #2 continues to be a standout entry for DC’s newest imprint.
Jade Street Protection Services #2 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The girls learn just what the fluff is going on in Jade Street Protection Services #2. Picking up on the tail end of last issue's magical showdown, writers Katy Rex and Fabian Lelay come heavy with the opening, but slow things down as they clarify the situation the girls find themselves in. The pair also deliver another respectful look at autism and anxiety in the form of Emma’s coping mechanisms. Lelay, pulling double duty as artist along with colorist Mara Jayne Carpenter and flats by Elizabeth Kramer, presents a kinetic and clear set piece in the opening and adapts well to the downshift in the back half with expressive characters and manga-inspired backgrounds. Though slightly delayed Jade Street Protective Services #2 proves that the delay hasn’t lessened the title's fun or charm.
Spider-Woman #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Have you ever been spending time with a friend but then their coworker shows up and spoils the night? Spider-Woman #13 is the comic book equivalent of that, and with Civil War II tie-in season in the past, Dennis Hopeless takes all of one page to reaffirm that this run of Spider-Woman is the strongest in the character's history. Whether Jessica Drew is in costume or going civilian, the commitment and skill that Hopeless displays with characterization is palpable. The comic takes a sharp turn from comedy during the confrontation between Hobgoblin and Roger Gocking in a genuinely shocking and game-changing sequence. Veronica Fish's art is striking and effective throughout the issue, with a particular strength in facial expression and body language. The story that she tells throughout the aforementioned confrontation is heartbreaking with how potent physical and emotional pain are conveyed. The comic has an extremely bold ending which other stories should note. It doesn't end on a plot cliffhanger, but rather an on emotional one. Hopeless' last lines in the issue cement this an exemplary beginning to an arc.
The Flintstones #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): With Election Day for Bedrock close at hand, The Flintstones delivers its sharpest and most emotionally effecting issue to date. Mark Russell, using the current political climate as a foundation, delves into Barney and Fred’s narrowing and heartbreaking military service while also presenting a satirical B-plot concerning a national presidential election and a race for class president at Pebbles’ and Bam-Bam’s school. Once again defying the odds, Russell’s script nails the emotions and insanity that is politics while still making it all read as fun instead of preachy. Steve Pugh’s pencils backed by the colors of Chris Chuckry also sell the humor and heart of the issue with plenty of rock based puns to spare in the background. With its heady ideas and heartfelt approach to storytelling, The Flintstones #5 keeps the title fresh and funny.
Flash Gordon: Kings Cross #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ming the Merciless returns to get revenge on Earth and its heroes in Flash Gordon: Kings Cross #1. Jeff Parker, using the springboard of the previous Dynamite pulp events, introduces readers to the new tech-less world and quickly gets the heroes into the thick of action as tidal waves threaten to hammer the coasts of the world. Artist Jesse Hamm and colorist Grace Allison continue the trademark boxy and darkly colored visuals that have defined the title. The pair also pepper the issue with rousing and constant action, starting with a Kirby-esque fight with the dual Phantoms as well as a stylishly blocked showdown between Flash and KGB agents. Despite a bit of exposition heavy at the start Flash Gordon: Kings Cross #1 is a fast-paced throwback to the pulps of yesteryear.
Catwoman: Election Night #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): It’s been one hell of an election cycle. A lot of things have been said, sometimes we’ve had to do a double-take to check and see if it was satire only to be saddened when it wasn’t. The main issue with Catwoman: Election Night is that it doesn’t say anything new. Meredith Finch adopts a duo of outplayed analogues and while it’s message warning against one candidate in particular bears repeating, it gets lost in the stilted dialogue and abrupt ending, even though the closing sentiment is touching. What makes this even more apparent is a direct contrast with the Prez backup from Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell which is biting, fresh and insightful. Blending this with humor just like the six issues, this short will make you wish that the previously-promised, subsequently-cancelled six-issue follow-up of Prez was the series being published in place of this.